Trafika Europe hosted a warm and wonderful evening of Latvian literature at the Latvian Mission to the United Nations in New York, with three visiting literary lights: Nora Ikstena, Liāna Langa and Margita Gailītis, on Friday May 1st, 2015. As Ambassador Jānis Mažeiks noted in his introduction, we were “both legally… and culturally in Latvia” for the evening, and a bilingual approach greatly enhanced the readings throughout.
Translator Margita Gailītis read from Nora Ikstena’s short story collection Life Stories, with the author participating by reading the many expressions in Latvian which punctuate the English version. Liāna Langa read from her brand-new volume of selected poems just out in English, Deadly Nightshades. These poems, as she recited them in Latvian, have an incantatory, almost liturgical quality in the original, deftly handled by Margita Gailītis, who read the English translations.
For a third work, we heard an excerpt from Five Fingers, the autobiographical novel by Māra Zālīte, based on the author’s childhood being repatriated from Siberia back to her grandfather’s farm in Latvia, where she had to reconcile the fairy-tale view of her homeland she had heard with the reality of life under the Soviets. This as-yet unpublished novel has received its English-language premiere with an excerpt in our Latvian issue. The evening was presented by Trafika Europe director Andrew Singer, who answered questions afterward.
Thanks to Ambassador Mažeiks and his staff for this event, to Jānis Oga and the Latvian Literature Centre for their support, and to those who attended and enjoyed this lovely evening, not only marking Trafika Europe’s current Latvian issue, but also celebrating the May Day holiday – Darba svētki in Latvia – as well as the anniversary of this day, 95 years ago, that Latvia convened its first Constitution. Liels paldies!
Trafika Europe 3 – Latvian Sojourn features a great sampling of contemporary Latvian literature in English translation. Accompanying this issue, we’ve also made a short animated video with poetry by the late, beloved Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis, set to choral music by composer Ansis Sauka.